Scientific evidence to support face coverings in hospitality venues: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

As of Monday September 14th, face coverings are to be worn by both staff and customers in hospitality venues Could you please provide the scientific study documents and evidence which this decision has been based on, including data on the effectiveness of such a measure in this setting given the range of measures already taken. Also could you provide any scientific studies on the risks of wearing a mask including the increased risk of transmission due to repeated touching of face coverings.


The Scottish Government has always and continues to make decisions based on the available scientific and medical evidence. Regarding face coverings, decisions were based on evidence and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

The Scottish Government Covid-19 Advisory Group, commonly known as the CMO’s Advisory Group, applies the advice from the SAGE and other appropriate sources of evidence and information and use it to inform local decisions in Scotland. The decision to make face coverings mandatory for both staff and customers in hospitality venues was based on this evidence.

I have noted below links to the appropriate information:

  • On 4 June 2020, SAGE discussed mitigation measures which included the use of face covering. You can find further information in the meeting minutes which are available on the UK Government website here.
  • The World Health Organisation released update advice on face covering on the 5 June 2020. The guidance advised that to prevent Covid-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, governments should encourage the general public to wear face coverings in specific situations and settings as part of comprehensive approach to suppress Covid-19 transmission. You can find a copy of this guidance on the WHO website here. And their recent guidance on children wearing face coverings can be found here.
  • The UK Government released a summary of the relevant SAGE reports for this topic. This can be found on the UK Parliament website here.
  • The Scottish Governments guidance on face coverings, including exemptions, can be found here.

We continue to review our policies on a regular basis in light of the emerging evidence on coronavirus and so we would urge you to continue to use the hyperlinks to find the latest position.

I have also included the following scientific studies on face coverings for your information:

Chen, Y.J., Qin, G., Chen, J., Xu, J.L., Feng, D.Y., Wu, X.Y (2020) Comparison of face-touching behaviours before and during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. JAMA Network Open, 3(7): e2016924.  

Iversen, B.G., Vestrheim, D.F., Flottorp, S., Denison, E., Oxman, A.D. (2020) Should individuals in the community without respiratory symptoms wear facemasks to reduce the spread of COVID-19? Norwegian Institute of Public Health (June 2020)  

Mantzari, E., Rubin, G.J., Marteau, T.M. (2020) Is risk compensation threatening public health in the covid-19 pandemic? BMJ, 370: m2913.

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